Reviews from When Saturday Comes. Follow the link to buy the book from Amazon.

The Extraordinary Football Games of Britain
by Hugh Hornby
English Heritage, £16.99
Reviewed by John Turnbull

From WSC 255 May 2008 

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Staring each other down across a rutted meadow in the Scottish Borders as daylight fails, two participants in the 2006 Shrovetide football match in Denholm, Roxburghshire, might be about to re-enact Monty Python’s semaphore-based version of Wuthering Heights. The caption to the photograph on page 131 of Uppies and Downies – the latest publication in the Played in Britain series – explains that this is what the unpredictable cross-country ramble offered at that moment: a game of wits between two men – one Uppie and one Doonie – several hundred yards apart, tramping through field and wood.

The Globalisation of Football
by John Samuels
Book Guild, £17.99
Reviewed by Roger Titford
From WSC 253 March 2008 

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The author confesses he started out with an analysis of the decline of midlands football but his publishers, seeking returns more global than those encompassed by the Nuneaton-Cannock-Worcester triangle, persuaded him to broaden his scope. He went away and did his reading, but his analysis is not particularly compelling.

The England Women's Story
by Natalia Sollohub & Catherine Etoe

Tempus, £14.99
Reviewed by Pete Green
From WSC 252 February 2008 

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If women’s football still lacks credibility in the minds of many fans and journalists (of both genders), its advocates can also tend to hinder the cause by suspending their critical faculties. “It was a difficult chance,” pleaded a chivalrous Gavin Peacock during the 2007 World Cup, after England’s Eni Aluko screwed horribly wide of an open goal against Japan. As former players, Natalia Sollohub and Catherine Etoe slip easily into a similar cheerleading role – but readers looking for a basic primer on the England team rather than rigorous punditry will find their book a breezily efficient ­introduction.

The Autobiography
by Barry Davies
Headline, £8.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 251 January 2008 

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“The Tiber had flowed into the Olympic Stadium and its colour was red.” This description of the 1977 European Cup final could, I think it fair to say, have come from only one man: Barry Davies. It bears all the veteran BBC commentator’s distinctive tics: portentousness and classical allusion are married in a sentence that at first reading seems to make no sense, but which after careful study is discovered to make absolutely no sense whatsoever. That to many people a red Tiber will conjure up images not of Rome and Liverpool, but of Enoch Powell is the collateral damage of his bombast.

Studs! The Greatest Retro Football Annual the World Has Ever Seen
edited by Barney Ronay
Ebury, £9.99
Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 239 January 2007 

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Football Handbook – The Glory Years
Marshall Cavendish, £9.99

Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 239 January 2007 

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As the Premiership becomes an increasingly remote circus, the primary colours and brutal joy of Old Football seem more appealing by the day. The fan of a certain age starts keening for the past – because at least it’s our past – and Christmas offers the chance to indulge in nostalgia without the slightly queasy feeling of having to go out and buy it ourselves.

A History of Football Tactics
by Jonathan Wilson
Orion, £18.99
Reviewed by Harry Pearson
From WSC 259 September 2008

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To those of us who grew up reading World Soccer in the 1970s, the word “tactics” will forever conjure up the severe glasses of journalist Eric Batty, portly sage of formations and positional play, whose annual selection of a World XI invariably involved at least one player of whom the writer would observe: “For club and country he is predominantly deployed on the right wing. I have elected to play him at left-back...” In 1970, Batty wrote a book in which he presented an analysis of the styles and tactics of the teams at the Mexico World Cup. In it the author conclusively proved – by data, argument and drawings – that Brazil were the most effective side at the tournament.

by David McVay
Reid Publishing, £9.99
Reviewed by Pete Green
From WSC 261 November 2008 

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How should a serious newspaper cover lower-league football? The Guardian hardly bothers at all, contemptuously summarising 72 clubs’ weekends in a negligible bullet-point “round-up”. The Times and Telegraph, superficially at least, sometimes offer the lower divisions greater respect, with weekly columns dedicated to life outside the top flight. But exactly how respectful is it to commission lower-league specialists to get their hands dirty at Underhill while their staff writers hoover up the posh nibbles in comfy Premier League press rooms?

A Bumper Book of Football Writing
by Giles Smith
Penguin, £7.99
Reviewed by Terry Staunton
From WSC 262 December 2008 

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Giles Smith’s regular column for, and other contributions to, the Times are blessedly free of the piousness associated with the majority of self-appointed Fleet Street sages, who purport to articulate the voice of the stands while sat smugly in the press box. A Chelsea season-ticket holder for most of his adult life, the bulk of his exposure to “live” football is consequently largely restricted to watching one team, which means, like the rest of us, he gets his broader fix from TV.

A Scottish Football Safari
by Gary Sutherland
Birlinn, £7.99
Reviewed by Archie MacGregor
From WSC 262 December 2008 

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With bookshelves groaning under the weight of companion guides on every subject from Slovakian folk music to Carry On... movies these days, why not a travelogue about Scottish football grounds? It appears to have several of the essential ingredients – a hint of the exotic (how many of us have ever contemplated a day trip to Peterhead?), a touch of the reassuringly familiar (match-day catering nightmares) and a couple of dastardly panto villains to provide a common point of reference (the Old Firm).

The Best Of The Guardian’s Footballing Obituaries
by Brian Glanville
Guardian Books, £12.99
Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 264 February 2009 

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The first real heavyweight of British sports journalism, and the only one to have contributed sketches to That Was The Week That Was, Brian Glanville remains something of a national treasure. His eloquent, sharply cynical style, drenched in arcane phraseology, literary allusions and brutally condescending wit, highlights the enduring lack of personality in football writing (at least, the kind of personality you’d want to sit next to at dinner). Any writer who believes that football and intelligence need not be mutually exclusive – at least not all the time – owes him a large debt of gratitude. This collection of obituaries from the pages of the Guardian is not the best platform for Glanville the stylist, but a fine showcase for his strengths as a journalist: that astonishing, exhaustive knowledge of football history, an eye for detail, and the ability to pack each paragraph with information while keeping the prose clean, clear and eminently readable.

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